White clothes live longer lives without chlorine and hot water

EASY DOES IT

March 05, 1992|By Vida Roberts

In grandmother's time whites were dried on the clothesline and got their brightness from the natural bleaching action of the sun. Fabrics now seldom see the light of washday and have to be treated in the home laundry. Here are some hints on keeping whites at their best from the experts at Woolite.

* Always sort whites into a separate load. Adding even the softest pastels will result in some color exchange.

* Follow directions on garment care for washing, washability, water temperature and drying. Garments often look the same but need different care. U.S. clothing manufacturers are required by law to provide care labels. But here's the catch. Since manufacturers are required to list only one procedure, they often recommend dry cleaning to protect themselves. Yet many garments are also washable by hand or in a gentle cycle. Recognizing when it's safe to wash can save fabric from repeated exposure to harsh cleaning chemicals.

* Use the gentle cycle and the coolest water temperature whenever possible.

* To prevent yellowing, avoid using fabric softeners on white fabrics.

* Go easy on the bleach. There are two types: chlorine and non-chlorine. If you want to brighten, try an all-fabric, non-chlorine bleach. Durable white cottons can take chlorine, but over time the fabric may be weakened. Chlorine may also fray collars and dissolve stitching.

* Cottons should be washed, not dry cleaned, to avoid buildup of residue.

* Linen, a strong fabric, should be washed when possible since it becomes softer and more lustrous with laundering and wear. Take special care with wrinkle-resistant linens, which may shrink in hot water.

* Silks are problematic. Read care labels carefully. If the label doesn't say "Dry Clean Only," and the garment has a simple construction, it's probably safe to wash. Never use bleach or enzyme pre-soaks which break down silk fibers. To keep white silks white, add a few drops of ammonia to the suds. Silk fibers are very delicate when wet, so never twist or wring.

* Rayon drapes beautifully, but is very fragile and unpredictable. Read the label for proper care. Some types can be laundered in a gentle cycle with a mild detergent and cool water. Remove from the washer immediately as the fabric will easily wrinkle. Hang to dry on a padded hanger. Always iron rayon inside out with a steam iron and a dry pressing cloth. Be sure not to get any water spots on the garment because water will leave permanent stains.

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